Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Favorite Moments of 2013

It's crazy to think that tomorrow marks the start of 2014. Seems each year goes by faster and faster. I'm headed into Orlando this afternoon to celebrate my stepdad's birthday with the family (yep, he's a New Year's Eve baby). The Hubby and I don't have any major plans for tonight. He's working today, so it's hard to make plans when you're not sure what time shift will end. But, we're looking forward to spending tomorrow evening with friends watching UCF play in their first bowl game. :)

Before I head into Orlando, I thought I'd pop in and share my 10 favorite moments from the past year, starting in January and going through December.

#1 Discovering Geocaching


In January we were introduced to geocaching by one of my colleagues. We were hooked on it for a little while (as you can see here and here), but we lost interest as we realized that the GPS systems on our phones weren't the best. We're hoping to invest in a handheld GPS, like the one above, and get back into it.

#2 Snorkeling with Manatees


This was probably one of my favorite "dates" that Dan and I went on this past year. Dan's mom gave him a voucher to go swimming with the manatees in Crystal River for his birthday. We had to wake up really early and swim in really cold water, but it was totally worth it. Definitely an experience I won't soon forget!

#3 The Birth of This Cutie


Although I don't talk about my friend's kids on here very often for the sake of their privacy, I couldn't help but share a photo of Dan looking like a natural holding our "niece." She's grown so much in the past year and I can't believe her parents are already planning her first birthday party!

#4 Chaperoning Grad Bash


I didn't mention our trip to Universal on the blog, mainly because I didn't snap too many pictures while we were there (had to preserve the cell phone battery in case a student called). But the trip was awesome! We were asked last minute the day of the trip if we could chaperone. I was fine with it, but Dan was working in Orlando at the time and wouldn't be able to make it to the school before we had to leave. A couple of hours of scrambling, and we devised a plan to take all 5 buses on a detour to a rest stop on the turnpike to pick Dan up on the way to the theme park (and do the same to drop him off on the way back). Being a chaperone was great! Because the park is closed to everyone except the schools attending the event, the kids can wander the park freely without having to be babysat. Which means, we got to go where we wanted, ride what we wanted, and skip all the lines. We had such a good time, we're hoping to do it again this year.

#5 Visiting Friends in Navarre


In April we surprised our friend on his birthday by travelling 7 hours to visit him one weekend. It was great to catch up with them since we hadn't seen them since their wedding, see their new home, and explore a new town. We're talking about making another trip up to see them soon - maybe this will become an annual tradition?

#6 Our Trip to Savannah & Tybee


This was the first major vacation that Dan and I took, just the two of us, since our honeymoon. Although Savannah wasn't exactly what we thought it would be, Tybee made up for it. We're planning another trip to the area this summer for to watch my father-in-law graduate from college and I'm campaigning to stay in Tybee rather than Savannah this time.

#7 Celebrating the Hubby's New Job


We took a big leap over the summer and became a one-income household so that Dan could pursue a job closer to home. That risk paid off at the end of the summer when I got the call from Dan stating that he'd been hired on full time. We went out that night and celebrated. I'm so proud of all the hard work Dan has put into this career and happy that he finally has a job that he's happy with.

#8 Surprising My Sister


I won't forget the look on my sister's face when she first saw her new laundry room. It was priceless! I'm so happy that we were able to give her and her family something for Christmas besides a gift card that truly would help them in their day-to-day lives.

#9  Solar Bears Game


Just like last year, we went to an Orlando Solar Bears hockey game with Dan's family the weekend after Christmas. This is one quickly becoming one of Dan's favorite things to do over the holidays, so I'm sure we'll be doing it again next year. It's sort of becoming an annual family tradition.

#10 Bringing Callie Home


And, of course, I can't forget the newest addition to our family. Even though it's only been a couple days, she's already known for her headbutting and laziness. Seriously - this cat can sleep!


So that's it! A recap of 2013. I can't wait to see what next year holds!

Monday, December 30, 2013

Callie

We welcomed a new addition to our family this weekend. 

Meet Callie!


You may have seen her on my Instagram feed last month. She was a stray that showed up in my mom's backyard. She's crazy friendly - even lets my niece and nephew drag play with her! In fact, my niece is the one who started calling her Callie, and it stuck. She happens to be a little vocal too....

video

As much as I knew we weren't exactly looking for another cat, every time I saw her, I knew she'd fit in with our other two furballs. She's the perfect mix of Periwinkle and Cruz. She's fluffy, has a nubby tail, and is a lap cat like Periwinkle. She's not afraid to tell you like it is and loves to nuzzle/head butt you when she wants attention like Cruz. 

But I had to convince Dan that we needed to bring her home with us. I had played with her a couple of times at my mom's house, but Dan had only heard about her and seen a picture or two. The first time he met her (which I caught on video below), he agreed to take her home.

video

Before we could take her home, we had to take her to the vet to make sure she wasn't microchipped, that she didn't have a disease she could pass on to our cats, and that she was spayed.



She wasn't a fan of the cat carrier. Or the car ride. But what cat is? Once we got to the vet's office, she was tortured had a series of tests run on her. Then, she came back into the room with us while we waited on the vet to come back with the results. She sat in Dan's lap for a little while before trying to find a hiding place.


The vet predicts that Callie's about 3 years old, which puts her at about the same age as Cruz. Even though he agrees with us and thinks she belonged to someone at some point, she wasn't microchipped. The scary tests (like feline AIDs and leukemia) all came back negative. But she did come back positive for hook worms and ear mites - both of which are easy to treat, and neither of which would be harmful to Periwinkle or Cruz while she was being treated. So, back into the cat carrier she went to go back to my mom's for one last night.


This time she slept the entire way home. Even when we stopped by Dan's parent's house to introduce them to her, she refused to get out of the cat carrier - just wanted to snooze.

We picked her up the next afternoon and brought her home last night. We've been trying to get the three furballs to get along ever since. Let's just say that Callie has taken over the office, while Cruz and Periwinkle pop their heads in occasionally only to be hissed and growled at before they run away in fear. Who knew such a sleepy cat could have such an effect on the other two?



Luckily, I'm still on winter break, so I'll be home all week to play referee to help them all adjust to each other. Fingers crossed they become friends sooner rather than later!

Friday, December 27, 2013

Surprise Christmas Makeover

Since yesterday I shared everything that went down for Christmas, I thought I'd share a Christmas gift that we gave to my sister a little early - a surprise laundry room makeover. We had been planning it for a while, and it was hard to keep it a secret. But I'm excited that I can finally spill the beans on how it all went down.


My sister and her husband bought their home about 3 years ago, but haven't really done any major upgrades to it since they moved in. It was was what you could call "builder basic." My sister added photos and artwork to the walls, but beyond that didn't really personalize the house. She has always talked about wanting to paint, but was too intimidated by the large ceilings and the color-picking process. I've told her for the past year or so to give me an idea of what she wants and I'd help her pick everyone out. I'd even volunteer my husband to do all the labor. But, nothing every really went further than that. Until a couple months ago that is.

Dan and I were visiting with my parents one weekend and got talking about Christmas and what were were thinking about getting for my sister's kids. Somehow the conversation transitioned to what we wanted to get my sister and her husband. I brought up the idea of buying her a gallon of paint for Christmas. Then, the idea snowballed into all of us chipping in and doing a whole room  makeover. And once my mom gets an idea in her head, it's hard for her to stop rolling with it.

So, when my sister and her husband came over later that day, I pulled my brother-in-law aside and told him about our idea. He loved it! I asked him which room in the house he thought they could benefit the most from a makeover. Laundry room. No hesitation. Main problem? Shoe organization.

You see, my sister and her family rarely use the front door to enter their home; they always use the garage door. Immediately through the garage door is their first floor half bath to the left and the laundry room to the right. The area in between was affectionately dubbed "The Dumping Ground." Maybe you have one of those. Backpacks.... Shoes... you name it, it was dropped. They had done their best to corral the shoes into large Tupperware bins, but it wasn't effective. And my brother-in-law was tired of tripping over shoes. For a man with only 3 pairs of shoes, he couldn't understand why it was so hard to put shoes away. And the shoes were making it difficult to get into the laundry room and sort laundry. So the laundry room it was.

Anyways, with his approval of the gift and the room chosen we turned to (what else?) Pinterest for ideas. I created a secret board and added my mom to it so that we could share ideas. While my mom distracted my sister, I went through all of the laundry room photos I had already pinned with her husband to see what he had in mind (like this, this, this, and this) and repinned those to the secret board.

My mom even got my sister onto the topic of painting her living room and asked her what colors she was considering. She said she wanted a blue color, then pointed to these earrings on the kitchen counter and said, "like this."


Crazy enough, those earrings were pretty darn close to the color I picked for my classroom last summer. To be honest, I was surprised by her choice considering most of the decor in her home is dark rather than bright. But, if we were going to paint any room a bright, cheery color, it would be the laundry room. 

Then my sister mentioned her favorite flower: tulips. I don't think she's met a tulip she didn't like. Red and yellow tulips are her color of choice. So, we ran with the idea of painting the walls blue and adding pops of red and yellow in the room.

With a color scheme in mind, the next step was to figure out how to accommodate all of the shoes while maintaining the functionality of the room. We knew it would require some piece of furniture, but we weren't sure of how large a piece the room would accommodate. So, we planned a secret trip out to my sister's house after school one day so that we could get in there, snap some before pictures, get measurements of the room, and get out of there before she got off of work. The only potential problem would be if my niece or nephew spilled the beans about our little trip.



With measurements in hand, pictures on our phones, and the added challenge from my brother-in-law to find a place for all the detergent bottles besides the top of the dryer, Dan and I planned a trip to Ikea with my mom. We looked at all of the possible storage options throughout the store and (three hours later....) decided that we liked the Pax wardrobe best. It made the most sense for what we were looking for: tall, fit into the space, allowed for deep storage and had changeable shelving and drawer options to choose from. The wired, pull out drawers would be perfect for storing all of their shoes. Not to mention, they were large enough for each member of the family to have their own basket. So we took pictures and wrote down the prices of all the components that we needed and got ready to leave Ikea.

But, if you know me at all, you know I can't leave a store without stopping by the clearance section first (my mother taught me well!). So of course I had to stop by the "as-is" section of Ikea near the registers. And wouldn't you know? They had the Pax wardrobes in the exact size that we needed marked down more than 50% off - still in the box! They had 7 of them left. But there was a little problem. We had driven down in my little Kia not anticipating buying anything. We'd have to wait until the next morning to borrow my stepdad's truck. Luckily, when we went back, there were still plenty of wardrobes to choose from. When we went back, we picked up the baskets for the shoes. The store was out of selves, so a few weeks later, I found some in the "as-is" section that were slightly off-colored and picked those up instead. Honestly, now that it's all been installed, you don't even notice the difference in color.

Now that we had the main piece of furniture to add functionality and storage, it was time to look for accessories. Remember how we were hoping to add pops of red and yellow to this room? Well, we found these awesome red floating shelves at Ikea when we were looking around and decided we wanted to add two of them to the room opposite the washer and dryer. Mom found a cute tulip canvas print. We played around with the idea of spray painting some frames yellow and hanging those up.


All that was left was to hurry up and wait. Mom and I both asked for the day off of work. Dan was already scheduled to be off. All we had to do was keep our fingers crossed and pray that neither my sister or her kids would get sick on the day we were planning to do the makeover.

The morning of the makeover, Dan and I were running behind schedule. So mom got there first and started unloading the laundry room and pulling the washer and dryer into the middle of the room. Dan helped unload the furniture from the pickup truck. And I worked on priming over the dark scuff marks around the walls. Since the paint we had bought was paint+primer, we decided to only prime over the darker areas on the wall. Then, we cracked open the paint. Dan got the high spots, I started cutting in, and mom rolled everywhere else.



Luckily, it only took one coat of paint to cover the entire room. We used a small brush to do minor touch-ups where needed. By the way, the color we used was Sunken Pool from the Martha Stewart line at Home Depot.

While the paint dried, my mom ran home to eat lunch and pick up the shoe baskets that she had left behind. Dan and I worked on getting the wardrobe assembled before we headed out to grab some food. Once we were all back together and had full bellies, we decided it was best to disassemble the wardrobe and assemble it inside of the laundry room.




See all that space between the washer and the window? Well, the initial plan was to shift both the washer and the dryer (their units are reversed) closer to the window and place the wardrobe between the dryer and the wall. Problem? The dryer hose was too short. Although that was easily fixed by a trip to WalMart, our next problem was that the dryer vent prevented the wardrobe from being placed flush against the wall and therefore, would prevent us from anchoring it.

Once I get an idea into my head, it's hard for me to let it go. I sat in that room and brainstormed how to make it all work. Because, honestly, the wardrobe against the window wall made the room feel even smaller than it did with the piles of shoes in it. Eventually, I convinced Dan that we could anchor some wood to the wall, and then the wardrobe to the wood. But, we didn't have time to do all the anchoring before my sister got home. We'd only have enough time to cut off a piece of the wire shelving above the washer and dryer and shimmy the wardrobe into place. No big deal - we could come back that weekend and fix it, right?

So, after making a quick trip to my in-laws to pick up a hack saw and my mom ran home to pick up my stepdad, we started running around like chickens with their heads cut off getting all the last minute things into place before my sister arrived home.


My niece and nephew helped with getting all the shoes into their new homes while I worked on hiding the tools and paint in the bathroom.

Here's the finished room:


The blue baskets were originally in the laundry room. We just organized what was in them and returned them to the shelf above the washer and dryer.


I shopped around her house for stuff to place on the shelves to that they weren't empty. My mom found the Christmas decorations and hung those up in the room.


You can see how tall the Pax wardrobe is. Although I bought three shelves for the unit, we only installed two. The first shelf holds all of the detergents, bleach, and fabric softeners, and the second shelf holds one of the Tupperware bins that previously held shoes. Now, it holds winter blankets and other seasonal things. There's even enough room on top of the wardrobe for another Tupperware bin. They even have the option of moving both bins to the top and installing that third shelf for even more storage.

My sister was completely surprised! Even all the panicked phone calls and text messages from her husband wondering when she was going to be home didn't tip her off.


Sorry for the really blurry photo.... but you can tell how happy she was (and how much of a ham my niece is). That yellow thing that she's holding was the only thing that we didn't have time to hang. It will eventually go below the red shelves and hold the kids' book bags.

I'm really glad that my sister loved what we did to her laundry room. She's even talking about having us come in and do another room for her. Don't have to ask us twice!

Thursday, December 26, 2013

Christmas Recap

I hope everyone enjoyed their time with family and friends yesterday. Dan and I had a great time this year, despite the fact that he had to work Christmas Day. Christmas lasted three days for us, so I thought I'd break down what happened each day and share some pictures that I snapped on my phone along the way.

Christmas Eve Eve

Is that even a thing? Well, if not, I say it should be.

Like last year, we headed over to Dan's sister-in-law's house and decorated gingerbread men. Only, this time, they were made out of sugar cookies. Tracy found large cookie cutters on Amazon to make gingerbread men and women.



Once all of the cookies were decorated, we snapped photos of them and uploaded them onto Facebook for our friends to vote on their favorite. I'll share my (rather creepy) gingerbread woman and a mitten that I decorated.


I would share the other creations, but the boys thought it'd be funny to make the gingerbread men anatomically correct....

After Dan's nephew went to sleep, the adults played a game of Cards Against Humanity. The first time I had heard about this game was in a gift idea post from Young House. So, I clicked on over to the game's website and knew we had to add it to our collection of games.  It's played very similarly to Apples to Apples, just not as PG. This game is definitely an "adult" game. Some cards will make you blush. Some cards are wrong in some many ways. You have been warned! :)




Christmas Eve

The next morning, Dan and I woke up and celebrated our Christmas a little early. Dan has had to work every holiday this year, and Christmas was no different. So, rather than waking up crazy early on Christmas to unwrap gifts, we figured opening them a day early wouldn't hurt. We did the same thing last year, so maybe this is becoming a tradition of ours?


I didn't do much decorating this year. Placed some small decorations on our buffet and hung the stockings. Besides that, I just wrote a holiday saying (inspired by this pin) on the chalkboard frame I finally got around to making (after mentioning the plans in this post).

Most of our gifts were wrapped in newspaper this year.  Dan didn't think I'd actually go through with wrapping gifts in newspaper, so he stuck to the traditional route of wrapping paper. But I had way too much of it piling up in my classroom, so I figured I could recycle some of it. Newspaper, curling ribbon, and bows. I think they turned out pretty cute.




After opening gifts, we ate breakfast and had a lazy morning around the apartment. Dan loaded his new game onto the computer and I researched looked around on Pinterest for instructions on how to season the cast iron pan that I had just unwrapped.

After a few hours, we showered, loaded up the car with gifts, and headed into Orlando. We dropped off gifts at my parent's house and talked with them for a bit. Then, we headed over to my in-laws for our traditional Christmas Eve gathering.


Although we live in Florida and it wasn't as cold as the rest of the nation, we still decided to light a small fire. My eagle scout was tasked with getting it started and making sure it stayed lit.


Dan's brother traveled down from Atlanta the weekend prior and stayed with us a couple nights. He, of course, remembered to pack his Grinch hat so that he could be the official carver of the "roast beast."


While snapping photos of Brian, I noticed this magnet with a picture of the Hubby from elementary school. Wasn't he cute?


As soon as the turkey and roast beef was carved, we sat around the table and ate dinner. Dan's nephew even took everyone's dishes to Grandma for her to wash. I think he was trying to speed up the process so he could open gifts.




After dinner it was time to gather around the tree, snap some more photos, and open presents.



It's crazy how much this kid has grown in a year!

 



After presents, it was time for dessert and coffee. Dan's nephew was glued to the computer the rest of the night tracking Santa. Every year he worries that he won't get home before Santa reaches his house, so we pull up the Santa Tracker to reassure him.


Then, Uncle Brian joined him on the couch. Uncle Brian was asked if his hair would grow. While the rest of us tried to stop laughing, Brian explained that hair would grow on only part of his head.


We headed home not too long after. Normally we'd stay in town overnight, but Dan had to work the next morning, so it made more sense to go home.

 Christmas Day

Wednesday morning, Dan woke up before dawn and headed into work for a 12 hour shift. I took my time getting ready before making the hour long trip back to Orlando to spend the afternoon with my side of the family.


My mom had caught some sort of bug, so she was feeling under the weather. Her brother and sisters came over along with my stepsister's family. We had pulled port and ham sandwiches for lunch. When you're sick, you go simple. :) 

I didn't get many pictures at mom's, but I did make sure to snap a picture of my niece and nephew playing their new game of Monopoly so I could send it to Dan as an I-told-you-so.


Dan thought that the kids would never play Monopoly - especially since it was the original version and not one of the fancy new ones. But I loved the game as a kid and thought they would like it too. Plus, they love counting Grandma and Grandpa's money jar whenever they come over. And, I thought it might help my nephew who is struggling a little with adding and subtracting larger numbers; he can learn math without knowing he's learning. And what would you know? Monopoly was the first and only toy/game that they chose to open up and play with. #proudaunt


After lunch, I packed a to-go back of pulled pork and macaroni for the Hubby along with a plate of fudge and made the long drive out to his station. I met one of his supervisors and we opened presents out of the trunk of my car in front of the station (I'm sure people driving past thought we were more than a little odd). After about an hour, I headed on home and left Dan and his supervisor to finish watching Forrest Gump.



This year Christmas a little long and drawn out. But, it's better than it flying by. If you want more Christmas fun, you can check out photos from last year's Christmas and our first Christmas as newlyweds here and here. I'll be back tomorrow to share the gift we got my sister. Hint: It involves paint and Ikea.


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